By the generation after Jesus’ death his followers were reflecting on what it meant that Mary, a person like they, had given birth to this man who was the presence and action of God in their lives. They surrounded Mary’s story with marvelous events and viewed her as the recipient of God’s particular care. They saw it as wondrous that an ordinary person could bring God to the world.
In the second book of his gospel, The Acts of the Apostles, Luke made the case, as Paul had decades earlier, that the community of faith is now God’s agent, the Christ, bringing salvation to its world.
It’s difficult to know the full reason that this understanding of the community faded from popular imagination but forty generations later few of us are comfortable with the idea. The Second Vatican Council worked mightily to rekindle the realization.
That God works through ordinary events and ordinary people is fundamental to the Christian vision. Still, we often find the thought strange. We’ve magnified the majesty of God so much that something balks at the suggestion that he would sully himself with earthy soil and sweat. That’s strange given the humanity of Jesus and the fact that God brings every human life into the world through the down-to-earth reality of sex.
To the extent that we lay people embrace the idea that God works through us we will transform our spirituality. For centuries we’ve accepted the ordained bring God to the world. Without objection we’ve listened to the assertion that they are the primary agents of Jesus’ revelation and salvation. It’s crucial that we restore the understanding that every person who lives the way of Christ in his or her family, job, community and corner of the world carries on the work of Jesus.
The role of Christ-in-our-world is not something that someone bestows on or withholds from us. It’s a role that Jesus’ Spirit gives us when we accept Jesus’ revelation. Together with our community we ritualize that role in our baptism and every Eucharist. It’s who we are.
Mary is a powerful memory in our community. Her words in the Magnificat [Lk 1:46-55] were, “The Lord has done great things in me.” That’s true of us all.